The Scoville Heat Scale

The Scoville scale is a measure of the 'hotness' of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers, i.e. hot sauce. The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which is the active component that produces the heat sensation for humans. The name capsaicin comes from the scientific classification of the pepper plant, a type of fruit, that belongs to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin (8-methyl N-vanillyl 6-nonenamide) occurs naturally in chilli peppers together with a number of very similar compounds referred to generically as capsaicinoids, it is the precise ration of these capsaicinoids which causes the differences in taste reaction to different pepper species, for example the typical delayed reaction to the habanero pepper (C. chinense) as compared to other species.

The scale or test is named after Wilbur L. Scoville (1865-1942), who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 while working at the Parke Davis pharmaceutical company. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the 'heat' is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. A sweet pepper, that contains no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero (no heat detectable even undiluted); whereas the hottest chillies, such as habaneros have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable. The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.

Nowadays, capsaicin concentrations are determined using more scientific methods, typically High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The direct measurement of capsaicin gives much more accurate results than sensory methods.

The Scoville rating or 'hotness' of fresh chillies is obviously dependent upon the variety of pepper but even within one particular variety the hotness can vary greatly, this is particularly so of the habaneros where a 10 fold variation is not uncommon. Factors influencing the heat of a fresh pepper include growing temperature, hours of sunlight, moisture, soil chemistry, and the type and amount of fertilizer used. The heat of dried peppers is equally dependent upon all of these factors as it was growing plus the conditions under which it was dried.

Until recently the Guinness World Records had the world’s hottest chilli pepper as the Red Savina Habanero. Generally these peppers range from 350,000–570,000 Scoville Units as compared with a score of 2,500–5,000 for the jalapeno pepper. The record breaking pepper was produced by GNS Spices Inc in 1994 in Walnut, US and measured at 577,000 Scoville units. Recently however several super-hot peppers have challenged for the record. Experts at the Defence Research Laboratory in the army garrison town of Tezpur in the North-Eastern state of Assam, claimed a locally grown Naga Jolokia in testing was nearly 50 per cent more pungent than the red savina habanero at a blistering 855,000 Scoville units. However, this remained unsubstantiated. Seeds of the same Naga-Bih Jolokia pepper (sometimes also called the Bhut Jolokia) cultivated at New Mexico State University have stood-up to testing and in Fenruary 2007 a specimen registering a staggering 1,001,304 Scoville heat units was officially acclaimed by the Guinness World Record as the new worlds hottest pepper. Naga Jolokia is nearly twice as hot as the previous holder, the Red Savina.

The current hottest pepper reported and No. 1 in the record books is the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, but rest assured someone is already working on something hotter!

As an aside, the Guinness World Records site is altogether fascinating, it's all to easy to spend an hour exploring extraordinary facts that you wouldn't even imagine people would even report, e.g. Tallest Celery Plant - Joan Priednieks of Weston Zoyland, Somerset, UK, grew a celery plant that measured 2.74-m (9-ft) tall in 1998. She bought the plant at a school fete in 1997. Joan says the celery is too tough to eat...

Scoville Heat Units Hot Sauce/ Chilli Pepper name
16,000,000,000 Resiniferatoxin - RTX (ultrapotent analog of capsaicin).
16,000,000 Pure capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin
16,000,000 Blair's 16 Million Reserve , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
16,000,000 Blair's 6 A.M., from Gardner Resources, Inc.
13,500,000 Blair's 2005 Halloween Reserve from Gardner Resources Inc.
9,100,000 Nordihydrocapsaicin
8,600,000 Homodihydrocapsaicin and Homocapsaicin
7,100,000 The Source, from Original Juan Specialty Foods
5,500,000 Blair's 5 A.M., from Gardner Resources Inc. - No Longer available
5,300,000 Police grade Pepper spray
4,000,000 Mad Dog 44 Magnum Pepper Extract , from Ashley Food Company, Inc.
4,000,000 Blair's 4 A.M., from Gardner Resources Inc. - No Longer available
2,000,000 Common Pepper spray
1,569,300 - 2,200,000 Carolina Reaper Pepper (PuckerButt Pepper Company, Fort Mill, South Carolina).
1,500,000 - 2,000,000 Blair's 3 A.M., from Gardner Resources Inc.
1,500,000 Da' Bomb The Final Answer , from Original Juan Specialty Food
1,463,700 Trinidad Scorpion Butch T (Hippyseeds Pepper, Australia)
1,382,118 Naga Viper pepper (Chilli Pepper Company, England)
1,100,000 Blair's Ultra Death Sauce from Gardner Resources Inc.
1,086,844 Chillipepperpete Naga from ChilliPepperPete (source ChilliPepperPete.com)
1,067,286 Infinity Chilli, from Fire Foods of Grantham, Lincs.
1,041,427 Naga bhut jolokia pepper, Assam India (C. chinense / C. frutescens hybrid)
1,000,000 Cool Million Pepper Extract , from the Poison Pepper Co.
1,000,000 1 Million Scoville Pepper Extract , from Ashley Food Company, Inc.
923,000 The Dorset Naga Pepper, from Peppers by Post
855,000 (reported) The Naga Jolokia pepper (Capsicum frutescens), not confirmed
800,000 - 1,000,000 Dragon's Blood Sauce from ChilliPepperPete (source ChilliPepperPete.com)
800,000 Satan's Blood, from Sauce Crafters Inc.
750,000 Mad Dog 357 'Silver' Limited Edition , from Ashley Food Company
700,000 The Slap Heard Around the World , from Tiguana Flats
600,000 - 900,000 Blair's 2 A.M., from Gardner Resources, Inc.
600,000 Mad Dog 357 with Bullet Keychain , from Ashley Food Company
550,000 Blair's Mega Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
500,000 - 750,000 Dave's Insanity Private Reserve , from Dave's Gourmet (estimated)
500,000 Pure Cap, from Garden Row Foods
400,000 - 500,000 Z Nothing Beyond Hot Sauce , from CaJohns Fiery Foods Company
400,000 - 500,000 Spontaneous Combustion Powder , from Southwest Specialty Foods Inc.
357,000 Mad Dog 357 Hot Sauce, from Ashley Food Company
350,000 - 577,000 Red Savina habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
350,000 Marie Sharp's Belizian Heat , from Marie Sharp's Fine Foods, Ltd.
283,000 Blair's Possible Side Effects , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
250,000 Vicious Viper, from CaJohns Fiery Foods
250,000 Dave's Ultimate Insanity Sauce , from Dave's Gourmet (estimated)
234,000 Da' Bomb Ground Zero, from Original Juan Specialty Foods
225,000 You can't Handle this Hot Sauce , from Peppers
225,000 Not Cool Chocolate Habanero from Bahama Specialty Foods, Inc.
180,000 Dave's Insanity Sauce, from Dave's Gourmet (estimated)
175,000 Predator Great White Shark , from Peppers
150,000 Mad Dog Inferno Reserve, from Ashley Food Company
125,000 Crazy Jerry's Mustard Gas , from Crazy Jerry's, Inc.
119,700 Da' Bomb Beyond Insanity, from Original Juan Specialty Food
100,000 - 350,000 Habanero (Capsicum chinense Jacquin)
100,000 - 325,000 Scotch bonnet (Capsicum chinense)
100,000 - 225,000 Birds Eye pepper
100,000 - 200,000 Jamaican Hot pepper
100,000 - 125,000 Carolina Cayenne pepper
99,760 Blair's Beyond Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
95,000 - 110,000 Bahamian pepper
90,000 Widow - No Survivors, from Sauce Crafters Inc.
90,000 Mad Dog Inferno, from Ashley Food Company
85,000 - 115,000 Tabiche pepper
75,000 - 80,000 Red Amazon Pepper
75,000 Chile-Today Red Amazon Powder , from Chile Today-Hot Tamale
50,000 - 100,000 Thai pepper (Capsicum annuum)
50,000 - 100,000 Chiltepin pepper
49,250 Blair's After Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
48,000 Blair's Pure Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
40,000 - 58,000 Piquin pepper
40,000 - 50,000 Super Chile pepper
40,000 - 50,000 Santaka pepper
35,000 Blair's Original Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
34,000 Blair's Golden Death Sauce , from Gardner Resources, Inc.
33,390 Endorphin Rush Beyond Hot Sauce , from Garden Row Foods
30,000 - 49,999 Lottie's Original Barbados Red Hot , from Lottie's Island Flavours
30,000 - 50,000 Cayenne pepper (Capsicum baccatum and Capsicum frutescens )
30,000 - 50,000 Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens)
15,000 - 30,000 de Arbol pepper
15,000 - 29,999 Lottie's Traditional Barbados Yellow , from Lottie's Island Flavours
12,000 - 30,000 Manzano pepper
11,600 El Yucateco XXXtra Hot Habanero , from El Yucateco Salsas Y Condimentos S.A. de C.V.
11,000 Crazy Jerry's Brain Damage , from Crazy Jerry's, Inc.
8,910 El Yucateco Green Chile Habanero , from El Yucateco Salsas Y Condimentos S.A. de C.V.
7,000 - 8,000 TABASCO® brand Habanero Pepper Sauce, from McIlhenny Company
6,000 - 23,000 Serrano pepper
5,790 El Yucateco Red Chile Habanero , from El Yucateco Salsas Y Condimentos S.A. de C.V.
5,000 - 10,000 Hot Wax pepper
5,000 - 10,000 Chipotle, a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked.
3,600 Cholula Hot Sauce, from Casa Cuervo S.A. de C.V.
3,400 El Yucateco Chipotle Hot Sauce , from El Yucateco Salsas Y Condimentos S.A. de C.V.
3,000 - 3,500 Texas Pete® Hotter Hot Sauce , from T.W. Garner Food Co.
2,500 - 8,000 Santaka pepper
2,500 - 5,000 Jalapeño (Capsicum annuum)
2,500 - 5,000 Guajilla pepper
2,500 - 5,000 Original TABASCO® brand Pepper Sauce , from McIlhenny Company
2.085 FRANK'S® REDHOT® XTRA Hot , from Reckitt Benckiser Inc.
1,500 - 2,500 TABASCO® brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce , from McIlhenny Company
1,200 - 2,400 TABASCO® brand Garlic Pepper Sauce, from McIlhenny Company
1,500 - 2,500 Rocotilla pepper
1,000 - 2,000 pasilla pepper
1,000 - 2,000 Ancho pepper
1,000 - 2,000 Poblano pepper
1,000 - 1,500 Texas Pete® Garlic Hot Sauce , from T.W. Garner Food Co.
747 Texas Pete® Hot Sauce , from T.W. Garner Food Co.
700 - 1,000 Coronado pepper
600 - 1,200 TABASCO® brand Green Pepper Sauce, from McIlhenny Company
500 - 2,500 Anaheim pepper
500 - 1,000 New Mexico pepper
450 FRANK'S® REDHOT® Original, from Reckitt Benckiser Inc.
400 - 700 Santa Fe Grande pepper
100 - 1000 Cubanelle Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
100 - 600 TABASCO® brand SWEET & Spicy Pepper Sauce, from McIlhenny Company
100 - 500 Pepperoncini, pepper (also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, and golden Greek peppers.
100 - 500 Pimento
0 Sweet Bell pepper